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Israel confirms resumption of spraying herbicides along Gaza fence

Palestinians harvest wheat at a field in an area adjacent to the border with Israel, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip 17 May, 2017 [Ashraf Amra/Apaimages]
Palestinians harvest wheat at a field in an area adjacent to the border with Israel, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip 17 May, 2017 [Ashraf Amra/Apaimages]

Israeli authorities have resumed spraying herbicides along the Gaza Strip’s perimeter fence, reported Haaretz, “after having refrained from aerial spraying throughout 2019”.

Last week, “the army sprayed the border area for three days”, the paper said.

When Haaretz asked the defence ministry why spraying had resumed after a year’s hiatus, the ministry replied: “Aerial spraying is done from time to time based on security needs, but solely within Israel’s territory”.

From 2014-2018, the report said, the army regularly sprayed the border every spring and autumn, with the stated aim of destroying “vegetation that obscures soldiers’ view of the area”.

READ: Human rights groups urge Israel to halt aerial herbicide spraying along Gaza fence

The Palestinian Agriculture Ministry said that herbicides damaged 14,000 dunams of agricultural land in Gaza from 2014 through 2018, “destroying all the crops that had been sown there”. Palestinian farmers told Haaretz that 2019, “when there was no spraying, was an excellent year for them”.

After spraying resumed last week, three human rights organisations immediately urged Israeli authorities to cease the practice.

According to Palestinian farmers, while the spraying is done on the Israeli side of the perimeter fence, “the wind then carries the herbicides into Gaza”, a claim “backed by video clips”.

A 2019 report by Forensic Architecture “confirmed Palestinian claims that the herbicides spread into Gaza, reaching a distance of more than 300 meters from the border fence”.

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